Friday, August 30, 2013

Theological Voluntarism and the debate over Calvinism

Roger Olson, an Arminian, thinks that the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian debate concerns theological voluntarism. I think that it really does boil down to this, although I have run into arguments to the effect that Calvinists are not necessarily committed to voluntarism.

When I debated the issue a few years back with the people over at Triablogue (mostly) I thought they were getting away from straightforward voluntarism, but that their position ended up in something like it in the final analysis. I think Calvinists like to cast the debate as reliance on intuitions vs. reliance on Scripture, but can we have knowledge of moral truths in the Platonistic sense which permit us to form judgments about what is can be plausibly attributed to God, which in turn affects our understanding of what we take from Scripture?


41 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Perhaps it's time for theologians and philosophers to take a cue from today's astronomers. Despite all the popular misconceptions about the Standard Cosmological Model (a.k.a., the "Big Bang"), mainstream cosmology does not assume that the entire universe was once compressed into a single point. What they do refer to is the Singularity (like the Big Bang, a singularly unfortunate term), defined here as a point in time prior to which no meaningful statements can be made.

I would propose that as we approach the "nature of God" we encounter a singularity, past which our language (and maybe even logic and reason itself) cannot adequately function to express what we desire. And just as the Singularity in cosmology does not deny the reality of what occurred on "the other side" of it, such a concept in theology would not be dismissive of an Ultimate Reality beyond our ability to comprehend.

Reference: The Cloude of Unknowyng by anonymous, mid-to-late 14th Century. (See, sometimes those "ignorant" Middle Ages were way ahead of us!)

B. Prokop said...

Re-reading my comment, I believe I may have been overly subtle in the last line. My point was the concept of "singularity" was well understood by the anonymous 14th Century writer of The Cloude of Unknowyng long before it was rediscovered by today's physicists and astronomers. Whoever he was, he would have given the overrated Stephen Hawking a run for his money for sure!

Ilíon said...

VR: "I think Calvinists like to cast the debate as reliance on intuitions vs. reliance on Scripture, but can we have knowledge of moral truths in the Platonistic sense which permit us to form judgments about what is can be plausibly attributed to God, which in turn affects our understanding of what we take from Scripture?"

Consider, on the one hand is the Scripture of the Jews (in which term I include the specifically Christian extension); on the other is the Scripture of the Arabs. Both scriptures *claim* to show us the truth, if incomplete, about God, both scriptures *claim* to be the very Word of God.

How does one decide between the two visions of God? The Judeo-Christian answer is to rely upon our reason -- the very thing the Calvinists claim we cannot do. The Islamic answer is to rely upon brute force and violence. Of course, it must be admittted, the two answers *are* grounded in the respective scriptures themselves.

The Calvinist, in rejecting the Judeo-Christian answer, has no solution to the dilemma ... unless it is to agree with the Moslem on the force-and-violence, while disagreeing with him on the object.

Dan Gillson said...

"...but can we have knowledge of moral truths in the Platonistic sense which permit us to form judgments about what is can be plausibly attributed to God, which in turn affects our understanding of what we take from Scripture?"

The question is poorly constructed, so forgive me if I misunderstand it, but it seems to me like you're asking if we can have a priori knowledge of God's attributes, and if we can, how does such knowledge influence the way we read the Bible. If you ask me (which you aren't, but here we go anyways), Christian theology gets itself into trouble when it looks for a priori knowledge of God's attributes. It implicitly assumes that the nature of God is the subject matter of theology, which leads to the contradictions between God's supposed attributes (e.g., omnibenevolence), and the record of God's historical acts. Luther's approach was different. For Luther, the subject matter of theology was the sinning human being and the justifying God. Theology then is concerned with the way God relates to us through certain justificatory means (sacraments, preaching, absolution), which means that theology culminates into proclaiming justification sola gratia. Interesting, no?

Papalinton said...

"Another way of putting the difference is this: a realist, non-voluntarist believes God has an eternal, immutable nature that is absolutely, purely good and even goodness itself and even God cannot violate that. Even God cannot use his omnipotence and freedom of choice to do things that are evil (against his own goodness). A nominalist-voluntarist says that God has no such limiting character and that whatever God decides to do is automatically good just because God decides to do it."

"Even God cannot use his omnipotence and freedom of choice to do things that are evil."
This clanger is emblematic of the nature of theology. If the powers of omnipotence cannot [definitively] be used then omnipotence it is not. A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction is better known as an oxymoron. This is the quintessential example of an oxymoron.
It is at this point that philosophy [the above quote is at bottom an attempt at a theological rationalising Plato's Euthyphro dilemma] erroneously and mistakenly crosses over into theology and is sorely mired in the relationship. Science too collides with philosophy and theology at the outer thresholds of speculation and hypotheses, but it alone developed a self-correcting mechanism by means of the concept of falsifiability. There-in lies its superiority as the singularly most powerful explanatory tool by which we learn and understand about ourselves, our environment, the world, the universe, and indeed even about gods. Science gleans from the theological anecdote that which is co-incidentally true, factual and correct while concurrently dispensing that which is fable.

Bob: "My point was the concept of "singularity" was well understood by the anonymous 14th Century writer of The Cloude of Unknowyng long before it was rediscovered by today's physicists and astronomers", in the same way that the Genesis story of the creation of the universe was a forerunner of modern science and predicted the Big Bang. Right? And that using your left hand to eat food is evidence that early man clearly understood the concept of Germ Theory.
No one is convinced by the claim.


B. Prokop said...

"No one is convinced by the claim."

Read the book, and then I might pay attention to your opinion on the matter.

Saints and Sceptics said...

Calvin was a little more nuanced:

We, however, give no countenance to the fiction of absolute power,which, as it is heathenish, so it ought justly to be held in detestation by us. We do not imagine God to be lawless. He is a law to himself; because, as Plato says, men laboring under the influence of concupiscence need law; but the will of God is not only free from all vice, but is the supreme standard of perfection, the law of all laws. But we deny that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in such a case.

Calvin, John Institutes of the Christian Religion (Kindle Locations 17682-17686). Signalman Publishing. Kindle Edition.

There is no higher authority than God's will: "everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it." (Kindle Location 17676). Signalman Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So, it seems that God cannot will evil because he lacks "concupiscence". That would be the only constraint on his choice - other than that he is completely free.

Graham

Papalinton said...

"So, it seems that God cannot will evil because he lacks "concupiscence"."

Concupiscence ? A euphemism for 'dead from the neck up'.

Papalinton said...

"Read the book, and then I might pay attention to your opinion on the matter."

My reply was not directed toward eliciting a response from you. Rather it was to provide a reasoned and rational rejoinder as a matter of public record.

To suggest a 14thC anonymous writer qualitatively acknowledges and understands the scientific concept of a singularity with the same degree of nuance, sophistication as is contemporarily understood, mindful of the context of today's science, is a bit silly really; as naive as imagining the 'atom' of Greek philosopher Democritus can be said he knew and understood the existence of neutrons, protons and electrons, which he clearly did not.

A 14thC person is as ignorant or well-versed as a .... well, a 14thC person, no more no less. To claim the 14thC origins of the singularity as synonymous with today's understanding of the term is simply projection, retrojected crystal-ball gazing.

Kathen said...

"Read the book, and then I might pay attention to your opinion on the matter."

Well, I have read the book and, honestly, I have no idea what you are talking about.

Could you point me to the passage where the author of 'The Cloud of Unknowing' discusses the singularity?

B. Prokop said...

Kathen,

The entire book is concerned with what we today call the Singularity. There is no single passage I can point to - it's the whole thing. What anonymous was telling us is that as we contemplate God, we inevitably come to a point where our language, and even our very thoughts, can no longer encompass what we'd like to express. Every definition we can come up with, every characterization we might make, every descriptive we reach for - all fall infinitely short of the mark. There is, in other words, a "cloud of unknowing" between us and God.

I was proposing that this is amazingly analogous to the contemporary concept in cosmology, in which "those that know" will tell you that nothing can possibly be known for certainty about what happened in the universe prior to the Inflationary Epoch, because the events of that era erased beyond all possibility of recovery every trace of what went on before. This "cloud of unknowing" between our age and the origin of the universe is called the Singularity.

Papalinton said...

"What anonymous was telling us is that as we contemplate God, we inevitably come to a point where our language, and even our very thoughts, can no longer encompass what we'd like to express."

Well now, that explains everything. And in its claim to this virtue is also its most dismal failing. That which explains everything explains nothing.

"Every definition we can come up with, every characterization we might make, every descriptive we reach for - all fall infinitely short of the mark. There is, in other words, a "cloud of unknowing" between us and God."

This is simply a repackaging of the argumentum ad ignorantium, by example, by logical fallacy, by definition and by pronouncement.

The great irony of this post-hoc rationalising, the risible nature of the explanation, is that through all this 'cloud of unknowing' it is proclaimed without a moment's hesitation that goddidit.

None of these responses to Kathen can be deemed credible let alone reasoned and logical. As Paul Henri Thiry, French philosopher, so astutely observed:

"Theology is but the ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system."


mattghg said...

we deny that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in such a case

ISTM this is closer to the heart of the debate between Arminians and Calvinists, and it is consistent with the denial of Theological Voluntarism.

Ilíon said...

"we deny that he is bound to give an account of his procedure; and we moreover deny that we are fit of our own ability to give judgment in such a case"

mattghg: "ISTM this is closer to the heart of the debate between Arminians and Calvinists, and it is consistent with the denial of Theological Voluntarism."

I don't see it's "closer to the heart of the debate between Arminians and Calvinists", since Arminians agree with the statement -- while recognizing that ultimately God *does* "give an account of his procedure", despite that he's not bound to do so, and that we all, including the Calvinists, "give judgment in such a case", despite that we are not fit to do so.

B. Prokop said...

"This is simply a repackaging of the argumentum ad ignorantium"

No, it is not - not in the least. It is an expression of the age-old, venerable discipline of the Via Negativa, which can be traced back at least as far at the Desert Fathers (and in non-Christian traditions much further back). We see it in Daoism as well - the Daodejing is absolutely soaked in it.

As pseudo-Thiry so aptly put it: "Any posting by Papalinton is but the ignorance of whatever he is talking about reduced to chaos."

Ilíon said...

The point of disagreement between Calvinism and the rest of Christianity (including Arminianism) has to do with whether God's grace is resistible, or, to put it another way, the disagreement is whether human beings "have free wills" (as people incorrectly think about the issue and phrase it). The other points of disagreement follow from this one.

I would also say that a background assumption that plays into the disagreement is the human propensity to forget that God is "outside" time, as it were.

Ilíon said...

"No, it is not - not in the least."

It's your time and your blood-pressure, but why?

Nothing you can ever say to Mr "Ignorantium" [sic] will ever pierce his willfully-chosen "invincible ignorance" (to stretch the meaning of a technical term) -- for he does not approach any of these issues from a genuine desire to clarify and understand, which is to say, he is intellectually dishonest.

And on the other hand, any reader, even a casual one, who doesn't see that the Mad Dingo *refuses* to understsnd that all his "objections" have already been answered and overturned, yet he keeps recycling them, dosen't see it because he doesn't wish to see it -- again, intellectual dishonesty.

My point being that I don't see the point -- I don't see the hoped-for good -- to even bothering to acknowledge, much less respond to, anything he says.

B. Prokop said...

"It's your time and your blood-pressure, but why?"

I really don't know. It's like scratching at an itchy scab. You know you're just going to tear it off and it'll start bleeding again, only to form a new, itchy scab. But you do it anyway.

mattghg said...

we all, including the Calvinists, "give judgment in such a case", despite that we are not fit to do so

Not, I think, in the relevant sense. I think the difference in reasoning goes more like this:

Calvinist
The Bible teaches that God does x
God is good
---
x is a good thing for God to do (even if we can't see how)

Arminian
x would not be a good thing for God to do
God is good
---
The Bible can't be teaching that God does x

(Assuming that both the Calvinist and the Arminian subscribe to the authority of the Bible)

Note that only the Arminian 'gives a judgement' about the morality or otherwise of God doing x independently of what the Bible teaches.

However, the Calvinist is not committed to the view that x is a good thing for God to do simply because God decides to do it. The Calvinist remains free (heh) to say that God's decisions follow from His nature.

Syllabus said...

The Calvinist remains free (heh) to say that God's decisions follow from His nature

OK. What might we then infer about the Divine Nature from the decision to, for instance, create a great deal - perhaps the mass - of humanity for the express purpose of damnation (not just foreseeing their damnation), as classical Calvinism holds?

BenYachov said...

@Bob

I understand what you are talking about because I've been reading a lot of Christian Mysticism.

But Paps is at his core a fundamentalist in terms of his former religious beliefs and present simple minded version of Atheism. A scientist looks at a Singularity something which is infinitely dense and as such Science and the Laws of Physics break down and He is face to face with an impenetrable mystery.

The Via Negative Mystic has a similar experience with God. Ultimately God is in essence the Absolute Unknowable. Thus he cannot be well known but only well loved.

It is an interesting parable. But when you say the author of the Cloud of Unknowing discovered the singularity Paps being the fundie that he is takes you to mean this unknown English mystic actually had a particle accelerator & actually succeeded in collapsing matter into an actual mini-black hole.

Paps is more of a hyperliteralist then even the most devoted member of the CREATION INSTITUTE.

There is no point to him.

BTW I agree with Ilion here on Paps.

How scary is that?

PS Personally I am skeptical Paps can be classified as "Invincibly ignorant". At best I would hope he is because of incredible stupidity which he has through no fault of his own. But the vincibly ignorant are morally culpable for their willful lack of knowledge vs their inability to know threw no fault of their own.

But my judgement here doesn't matter. That is for God.

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

"we all, including the Calvinists, "give judgment in such a case", despite that we are not fit to do so"

mattghg: "Not, I think, in the relevant sense. I think the difference in reasoning goes more like this:
...
Note that only the Arminian 'gives a judgement' about the morality or otherwise of God doing x independently of what the Bible teaches.
"

Never mind that you're misrepresenting the Arminian, in his reasoning, you're also misrepresenting the Calvinist, in the effect of his reasoning -- that syllogism you attribute to the Calvinist is every bit a judgment about God, and of God, as the one you attribute to the Arminian.

mattghg: "However, the Calvinist is not committed to the view that x is a good thing for God to do simply because God decides to do it. The Calvinist remains free (heh) to say that God's decisions follow from His nature."

That also is a judgement about, and of, God, whether it's an Arminian or a Calvinist making it. We *all* -- Christian or Jew or 'atheist' or pagan or "whatever" (*) -- pass judgment on God, despite that we haven't the competence, nor standing, to do so. We can't help doing it.

Amazingly, God invites us to pass judgment on him. I say "amazingly", because he knows better that you and I do that none of us have the competence to judge him. What do you think "Trust me, that I am Good, that all I do is for the good of all beings" is, if not an invitation to judge him? It's as impossible to trust God, as it is to condemn him, without first having judged him.

(*) in the "whatever" category, I'm including BenYachov, that Son-of-Confusion -- his One Big Thing, denying the personhood ... and moral agency ... of God (and his One Big Pleasure, mocking and demonizing the "fundies" who affirm the personhood and moral agency of God), follows from *his* having judged God to be immoral. As he couldn't accept the conclusion, and didn't want to drop his unstated assumptions, he instead decided to depersonalize God, seeing as *things* are not moral agents.

Ilíon said...

mattghg: "Note that only the Arminian 'gives a judgement' about the morality or otherwise of God doing x independently of what the Bible teaches"

Getting back to my first post in this thread -- how did the Calvinist decide that the Jewish Scriptures, as opposed to the Arab Scriptures, are the Word of God? How did he decide that Jehovah is God and Allah is not?

Papalinton said...

"A scientist looks at a Singularity something which is infinitely dense and as such Science and the Laws of Physics break down and He is face to face with an impenetrable mystery."

The statement stands universally acknowledged and accepted to the point, " ...and He is face to face with an impenetrable mystery" From there it all rapidly descends into the mire of the labyrinthine theological mindset, 'the impenetrable mystery'.

And I can understand why it is for the supernaturalists that an impenetrable mystery must necessarily exist. Because within this 'impenetrable mystery', this 'cloud of unknowing' is where the Christian god conveniently hides. Set aside the emotively derived and somewhat simplistic appeal to mysticism and mystery, and the Christian god refracts the identical light as once did Zeus, Osiris, Mithra, and Jupiter.

The probability of theology explaining the singularity is, to put it charitably, nil.
The probability of science explaining the singularity is immeasurably higher. The track record of science simply overwhelms theology as an explanatory tool.

Theology or more broadly religion, can only ever mount a rearguard action, attempting to dowse the leaping spotfires of the advance of rational thought, reason and naturalism.

This post, '"Theological Voluntarism and the debate over Calvinism", is characteristic of the inconsequential trivia that now passes for rational debate in theo-philosophy circles. It has the air of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. But that is the ineluctable future trajectory for theology in the public square of a more educated and wiser community.


B. Prokop said...

"The probability of theology explaining the singularity is, to put it charitably, nil.
The probability of science explaining the singularity is immeasurably higher.


Close, but no cigar, Linton. The probability of either of them "explaining" the singularity by definition is nil. That's what singularity means, in case you didn't know.

The term is also used in the context of black holes, indicating the horizon beyond which nothing whatsoever can be discerned (because "what goes in, doesn't come out").

So, another swing and a miss for Mr. Wilson.

Ilíon said...

"So, another swing and a miss for Mr. Wilson."

If you have your heart set on keeping score, wouldn't it be simpler to track the non-misses? That number has surged all the way up to, what is it now, zero?

B. Prokop said...

Touching, isn't it? For a man so opposed to "Faith" to have such blind faith in his precious science. So much so that he feels no need to actually know anything about it. He can't stand the fact that there are theists out there, Christians even, who have forgotten more about genuine science than he'll ever know. It probably kills him that the majority of Apollo astronauts were devout Christians (to include members of the protestant clergy!), and there were ZERO atheists among them.

Ilíon said...

Well, simply everyone knows that has the Apollo people been "rational" 'atheists', rather that "irrational" "Christianists", there would be human colonies at Alpha Centauri but now, or at least on Mars!

Papalinton said...

"The probability of either of them "explaining" the singularity by definition is nil. That's what singularity means, in case you didn't know."

From your stance, if either is unable to explain the singularity, then how is it that Christians perverse adhere to goddidit to fill that inexplicable void? In light of your concession that theology provides no explanation your position can only be understood as the 'god-of-the gaps' ploy. And if you say it is not a 'goddidit' moment then one can only conclude that the contradiction leaves you in a real pickle.

"Goddidit' use to work in olden times when the 'cloud of unknowing' was fearfully deemed a reality among the ignorant and to dare venture otherwise from the 'goddidit' maxim was tantamount to a willful rejection of god punishable by eternal damnation. And while I know it remains a common mantra among the ignoranti of today, overall, it simply does not have the traction it once did when theologians were an unwarranted affliction at front and centre in the public square.

The 'cloud of unknowing' is quite an unedifying and simplistic worldview really. Is it any wonder that the decline and decline of religion within the community is inexorably trending downward? The 'cloud of unknowing' and 'mystery' and 'mysticism' renders the tenets of christianity indistinguishable to the nonsense ideas and beliefs trotted out by Deepak Chopra and other superstitious supernaturalists. This excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the panoply of supernatural entities that go bump in the night and live under the beds of children is simply unjustified in a modern world. It is callow superstition through and through, no more no less. What is superstition? "A widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief." [All References Dictionary] . The 'cloud of unknowing', along with God at the other end of it, is unspoiled superstition, superstition at its most pristine, in its original condition. Christian believers are purveyors of superstition.

It cannot be any clearer.

B. Prokop said...

Linton,

All you have demonstrated with this last posting is that you have no clue what you are talking about. It is completely evident that you have decided to knee jerk spout off with your tired, canned objections to Christianity, whilst making not the slightest effort to actually understand what is being discussed. I'm going to take a cue from Ilion and ignore you for a bit.

Lothar Lorraine said...

I believe that Calvinism inevatibly result in an atrocious blasphemous.

For one natural conclusion is that God PREDETERMINED a man to rape a woman and will hold him accountable for that.


The utter absurdity of this belief system is very well illustrated in a children book of John Piper where he states that Satan is God's puppet but that the kid has to be good.

I beg your pardon, what were you saying?



Regards from Europe.

Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

BenYachov said...

@Paps

If a Singularity could in principle be explained by Science then Stephen Hawkings wouldn't have bothered to come up with his Harte/Hawking theory outlined in A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME in order to get rid of the Singularity.

According to Hawkings. Scientists don't like the Singularity because with it the Laws of Physics break down. Thus it becomes impossible to do science.

Wow you are a shinning example of one who worships science but knows pretty much nil about it.


Dude what is the point of you?

B. Prokop said...

Ben,

What I found most amusing about Linton's postings on this subject is that it's plainly evident that he didn't even take the time to learn what it was we were discussing. He just jumped blindly in with his stump speech about "Science will crush Religion in the Bright Future" with no regard as to whether his comments were even remotely related to the subject at hand.

Take careful note of his use of the phrase "from your stance" in his most recent posting - a clear sign that he has no idea that I am simply citing the universally accepted definition of the term Singularity among astronomers and cosmologists.

Linton simply hates it when he is out-scienced! After all, that's supposed to be his turf (in his worldview).

Ilíon said...

"I'm going to take a cue from Ilion and ignore you for a bit."

It's very easy to do: when the notification of a nre comment arrives in your inbox, if the "sender" is 'Papalinton', you just delete it without even lookoing at it. Then, if you're scrolling through the thread, any time you see a post that starts with "Papalinton said ..." you just keep scrolling.

Of course, on this last, depending on how your (automatically) eyes scan text, you may accidentally read a phrase or two. At that point, make a conscious decision to not comment on it, no matter how inane it was.

steve said...

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/09/reppert-on-theological-voluntarism.html

Papalinton said...

Bob
"Linton,
All you have demonstrated with this last posting is that you have no clue what you are talking about. It is completely evident that you have decided to knee jerk spout off with your tired, canned objections to Christianity, whilst making not the slightest effort to actually understand what is being discussed. I'm going to take a cue from Ilion and ignore you for a bit,"


On the contrary. What I have noted about the Christian mytheme is spot on. Whichever first-class Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology 101 course that might be studied, one will be keenly struck by at least one of many compelling interdisciplinary features. They all consistently and unequivocally agree that the antecedents for the origin and source of religion and theism more generally, are entirely and completely culturally-dependent. The content and substance of religion is not otherworldly. There is no supernatural vortex out of which gods, immaterial and putatively live entities, and thoughts and mathematics and numbers and forms etc etc stream into and infuse the natural world. Every aspect, feature and character of supernaturalism is entirely terrestrially-bound and are the direct result of the human species' boundless capacity for creativity and imagination. They all consistently and unequivocally demonstrate that supernaturalism is wholly contained within and constrained by the society or groups' cultural imperatives and social determinants. That is why Christians do not for one moment concede that Ganesha is a genuine god, sufficient to be included as part of the Christian panoply. And I seriously doubt that Christians would ever ecumenically concede that Ganesha is simply the Hindu representation of Jesus in another form, that Christians and Hindus ostensibly all commonly pray to, the same God as some Christians would have us believe despite the cultural differences of expression. No, supernaturalism in its various incantations and manifestations is solely an expression of culture. No more no less.

That is the only reasonable and logical conclusion that a seasoned thinker of today can arrive at and which explains the myriad of incalculable numbers of gods and ethereal entities both formed and formless of all persuasions, connotations, commutations and permutations known since the dawn of human kind.

Your derogatory epithets of 'knee-jerk', 'spout', 'canned objections', and making no effort to 'actually understand', is symptomatic of the lazy interlocutor that has reached his intellectual limit to offer fresh and compelling new evidence to sway the average Joe in the street of the truths of supernaturalism.

CONT.

Papalinton said...

CONT.
There are two things we pretty much know with a good degree of certainty:
(1) Christianity, or more generally religion, largely [only?] survives in society because of early interventionist inculcation of children at a very young age, when their immature brains are a sponge for socialization during those critical early formative years.
(2) Christianity, being a fully-franked derivative of culture, invariably benefits from the process of enculturation that every child must necessarily and existentially undergo in the vital formation, development and articulation of both their identity and personality. It is known that whatever mix of experiences, knowledge, understanding, background, and history that is formed during this stage becomes a function of their personality and identity, regardless of the truth, fallaciousness or otherwise of the experiences, knowledge etc. So when superstition and other credulous belief is part of the cultural mix during early inculcation they are almost, almost permanently imprinted into the brain of the child, and ever so difficult to remove. The Clergy Project has shown the prodigious emotional, psychological and physical energy expended in extricating oneself from the enormously powerful indoctrination of the early years when the realization their lives were based on no more than a mental fantasy really hits home.

By a few examples. that is why many women of sub-Saharan Africa, inculcated into the Muslim faith from birth, necessarily believe that female genital mutilation is a good and honourable process, not unlike Jews on the matter of male genital mutilation for nothing other than to make propitiation to a make-believe entity. Despite every effort to demonstrate the utter cruelty, stupidity and uselessness of cliterodectemy, and that it has no intrinsic or extrinsic merit whatsoever, the practice persists even in Western countries as we speak. Why? Because the women are products of a cultural religious imperative. But apparently, in the eyes of the God of Islam, it must be so performed.

Bob, the core of Catholicism is no more rational or true than Islam or any other religion one cares to name, in the matter of supernaturalism and superstition. I as one of greatly increasing numbers of people have yet to be convinced there is a compelling reason to become a Christian [in my case, again] that doesn't rely on the tired and worn tropes of tradition and convention. The rationale for religion is .... stale and manky.

B. Prokop said...

Like I said (and thanks for verifying it - right on cue!), "knee jerk, tired, canned objections". And spouted off, to boot.

Mike Darus said...

Back to OP:
"but can we have knowledge of moral truths in the Platonistic sense which permit us to form judgments about what is can be plausibly attributed to God, which in turn affects our understanding of what we take from Scripture?"

This is a tough forum for this time of question. The question assumes an approach to Scripture as an authority of belief. This part of the question ask for permission to interpret Scripture by imposing a "Platonic sense which permit(s) us to form judgments about what can be plausibly attributed to God." Neither the Calvinist or Arminian, if they are true to their historic roots, can give that broad of permission if the hope is understanding of the message of Scripture. Both traditions seek to discover the biblical position, not to impose a system over it. At the same time, the positions may have reached the unfortunate place where they each are more concerned with defending their position than being true to the message of Scripture. Such seems to be the nature of contemporary debate where winning is more important than the search for knowledge.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"Like I said (and thanks for verifying it - right on cue!), "knee jerk, tired, canned objections". And spouted off, to boot."

I think at this point, it is fair to say that Papalinton is a humorless parody of Lapapinton's parody of Papalinton.